Black Lives Matter Vancouver launch petition to have police removed from 2017 Pride parade

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      For a second time, Black Lives Matter Vancouver is asking the Vancouver Pride Society to remove the police from the Vancouver Pride parade.

      BLM Vancouver's concerns about police participation in the 2016 Pride parade originated last year.

      To recap the sequence of events, the Black Lives Matter movement originated in 2013 to protest violence and systemic racism against black people and addresses issues such as police brutality, racial profiling, and racial inequality in the justice system.

      The Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter blocked the 2016 Toronto Pride parade on July 3 and refused to move until Pride Toronto's executive director signed an agreement to their demands, which included removing police floats and booths from the parade.

      On January 18, Pride Toronto voted to support BLM Toronto's requests, including the removal of police floats from future parades.

      Meanwhile in Vancouver, BLM Vancouver issued an open letter to the Vancouver Pride Society and the Vancouver Police Department on July 15. In the letter, they asked the police to withdraw from the Pride parade and instead participate in a public-service float.

      On July 25, VPS president Alan Jernigan confirmed to the Georgia Straight that the VPD would participate in the parade. However, they did request the police to remove an armoured vehicle from the parade.

      Uniformed police marched in the Vancouver Pride Parade 2016.
      Craig Takeuchi

      Today (February 7) during Black History Month, BLM Vancouver launched a petition to ask the VPS to remove all uniformed police officers (VPD or RCMP) from any Vancouver Pride parades from 2017 onward.

      In their Facebook post, BLM Vancouver explain that "Pride is a protest, catalyzed by the work of trans women of colour at the Stonewall riots. Black queer and trans people, especially Black femmes and trans women have always been integral to the queer liberation movement and therefore deserve to be honoured, respected and included in Pride parades across the world."

      BLM Vancouver's petition includes portions of their 2016 open letter to the VPS and VPD:

      We understand the requirement to have the Vancouver Police Department present to perform a civil service and ensure the safety of the public, however we look forward to this voluntary withdrawal from the parade itself as a symbolic gesture and actual sign of support for Indigenous, PoC and Black communities, and an attempt to bridge the divide that the effects of institutionalized racism impose on our daily lives.
      Having the Vancouver Police Department on the ground to perform a civil service is understandable however having the institution participate on a float in the organized festivities of the actual parade is inappropriate and insulting to those who came before us to make Pride celebrations possible, some of who even died for the cause. Embracing the institution in an event that originates from protest against its actions makes us justifiably uncomfortable.
      Our work is to stay true to the origins of the Black Lives Matter movement and to be Black Lives Matter is to work against police brutality and police militarization wherever we are. 

      BLM Vancouver explains that the reason why they want the police to withdraw from the parade is because they represent systemic oppression.

      "The policing institution is an instrument of state violence and oppression. Dressing up in rainbows and feather boas does not change that fact. If they really support queer and trans people of colour they need to do a lot more work to earn their spot. There are so many other ways they can show meaningful initiative to work to protect the most marginalized groups."

      They also point out that any LGBT police officers can participate without uniforms as civilians.

      RCMP officers also participated in the 2016 Vancouver Pride parade.
      Craig Takeuchi

      While BLM Vancouver's request did spark controversy, debate, and discussion within and outside of LGBT communities, Black Lives Matter was invited to be grand marshal for the 2016 Vancouver Dyke March and was featured in a spotlight at the 2016 Vancouver Queer Film Festival.

      Meanwhile on January 20, BLM Vancouver posted a letter online addressing the lack of black, queer, and trans women speakers in the Women's March on Washington in Vancouver. The group explained that none of its members were contacted by the rally’s coordinators for consultation, help, or inclusion.

      The organizers of the Women's March on Washington in Vancouver subsequently issued an apology to BLM Vancouver on January 25.

      Update: The Georgia Straight interviewed the Vancouver Pride Society's operations executive director Kieran Burgess about how they will handle this year's parade and interviewed BLM Vancouver organizer Daniella Barreto about their position.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on FacebookYou can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at @StraightLGBT or on Facebook.